A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mario and the gang tend to cartoon-up sports titles, making them fun for fans of the sport and people who've never played a sports game before. This game is colorful and challenging and using the stylus will only make kids feel more involved with the game, and more responsible for the results (win or lose) than games using standard control schemes. This game teaches the importance of teamwork.
What's it about?
MARIO HOOPS 3-ON-3 is a real step forward for the new Nintendo DS system. It uses both screens: The upper one shows the action and the lower touch screen gives an overhead, icon-based view. Each basket scored is worth 20 points, but there are hidden coins all over the court and you can net extra coins on a good slam dunk. This means some baskets can be worth over 125 points, if you've taken the time to collect the coins.
Controlling the players means using the direction pad to move and the stylus for everything else. Tap the screen to dribble away from grabby opponents. Dribbling onto randomly appearing pads will net you coins, while if the defense can run over a pad, it gains a handy turtle shell or other goody that can be used to disrupt the offense and steal the ball. Shooting means rubbing the screen upward with the stylus. Rub it up for a lay-up, up and around for a dunk, swipe it toward a player for a pass.
Is it any good?
Most of the time the stylus-play works effectively, but occasionally players will stroke with the stylus, trying to pass, and find themselves shooting instead. It isn't perfect, and there's a bit of a learning curve, but the result is surprisingly fun and innovative. The full 3D graphics are colorful and impressive, and the presentation is whimsical -- there are ice courts, and one even takes place in a volcano. Tournament play is available, as well as plenty of creative Mini games based on basketball.
Wi-Fi is available for multiplayer action, and that's where the game really shines. Taking it to another player, in a game like this where skill matters, is multiplayer nirvana on the basketball court. Mario Hoops 3-on-3 is a terrific take on the sport of basketball, and it will appeal to fans of the game as well as kids and parents who've never had the pleasure of lacing up the high tops to take the ball to the hoop.
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